Education Minister Gale Rigobert (PhD) says she is proud of Saint Lucia’s progress on one hand and on the other, saddened by the lack of progress, and to some extent, setbacks in other areas.
In an address delivered Monday in recognition of International Women’s Day, the Minister said that in the past 15 years Saint Lucia had moved to parity in public service administration in that a little over half of the top positions in the Public Service – that of Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments are filled by women.
She said, “Way over half of our school administrators are women. Over half of the heads of national organizations are women. Although the Private Sector may not have reached parity in top management, there has been a significant increase in the number of women who occupy top management jobs in the Private Sector.
“During the management of the pandemic, women’s ability to lead even in crises was clearly demonstrated in the sterling leadership of the Chief Medical Officer and the Director of the National Emergency Management Organization, both of whom are women.
“The education sector which had to exercise its fair share of flexibility and creativity brought out the leadership of the Permanent Secretary and Chief Education Officer, both of whom are women.
“We did not act alone. These women leaders were supported by women and men who worked and continue to work together to help us navigate such uncertain times. Our ability to work as equal partners was clearly visible in the development of the Economic Recovery and Resilience Plan with equal representation of women and men in the planning, development and implementation of this plan.”
The Minister said that the above examples of clearly visible partnerships demonstrate that “we work better when we work together” and these examples show the world that Saint Lucia understands the value of parity and is well set to totally embrace parity in leadership in all spheres.
“There is no question as to whether women have the capacity to lead in the highest levels of decision making. I therefore welcome the women who have entered the political arena and invite others to step up also to the challenge, to partner with our male colleagues at the highest seats of decision making, so we can truly experience parity in all spheres of leadership,” Rigobert said.
According to her, in the last few years, through development of the National Gender Equality Policy and Strategy, there have been many strides made in assessing and understanding the factors undergirding inequality, in the hope that the National Policy and Strategy will strategically introduce and strengthen new measures to address these underlying issues to reduce the inequalities, at least as it pertains to gender.
“We are acutely aware of the other factors that intersect with gender such as age, employment status, educational attainment, poverty, disability, sexual orientation and marital status and how these deepen inequalities,” she said.
Minister Rigobert said that initiatives undertaken in the last three years, and others, catalyze the process of structural change that will get Saint Lucia closer and closer to realizing substantive equality.
“To ensure this happens, I have undertaken to strengthen the normative framework, through the development of a transformative National Gender Equality Policy and Strategy that boldly and unapologetically seeks to create a policy framework for creating substantively equal opportunities and status for women and men in Saint Lucia,” the Minister said.
“I join women activists and change agents around the world in ushering an era of parity, which challenges the norms of patriarchy that reinforce unhelpful and unfair triple burden of care in the home, community and workplace for the “proper” woman. Caring is a noble role that can be undertaken by any man or woman; leading is a noble role that can be undertaken by any woman or man.
“I am ushering an era of sharing the care– let us flatten the curve of care that forces workforce and child bearing aged women out of the job market or seek employment way below their capability, because their care role serves as a barrier to their advancement.
“I am ushering an era of sharing the leadership – let us flatten the curve of leadership that forces women to stop at a certain level because the top is considered too dangerous, too tough or too demanding; not for the job-specific tasks, but for the social pressures of being there.
“I am ushering an era where it is no longer strange for a woman to be guarding the head of state and a man serving as a receptionist. I am ushering an era where men and women attend pre-natal and post-natal clinics together. I am ushering an era when I am as confident hiring a female contractor as I am hiring a male. I am ushering an era where micro and small enterprises grow into medium and large corporations because the women who own them can have access to the necessary finance to do so.
“An equal era is possible – and we can achieve it together as partners,” Rigobert said.
According to her gone are the days when gender equality was a conversation that activists held among themselves before and after they came from emotionally draining marches and public meetings.
“Gender equality is an imperative for sustainable development – a conversation as mainstream as education, that happens around the highest decision making tables and in the darkest alleys,” she said, adding that government is prepared to walk the talk with the development of the Gender Equality Policy and Strategy that places gender on every agenda, through developed and implemented sector-specific gender action plans that are monitored and supported.